From Federal News Network:
Jul 31, 2022
Jul 30, 2022
From Helaine Olen writing for the Washington Post:
There are two schools of thought when it comes to how well Americans will fare in retirement. One says we are on the verge of a crisis, that the age of the 401(k) has left large numbers of us without sufficient money for our old age. A second group is more sanguine. They point out Americans spend less in retirement than when they worked, and claim the others are overreacting.
It’s increasingly looking like the chicken littles have it right. ...
The latest warning comes in the form of a research brief for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College ...
[S]omeone born in 1945 has a better than half chance of living in a household where at least one person receives a pension. The number drops to about 25 percent for someone born a mere eight years later. By 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 1 in 7 private-sector workers worked at a firm with access to a defined benefit plan. ...
[M]ost Americans are not putting enough of their own money away, and what they do save is often less than ideally invested. ...
So what’s the most likely fix coming out of Washington? Double down.
The Secure Act 2.0 passed the House this year in a bipartisan vote, with barely a whisper of dissent. It increases the amount of money people over age 62 can set aside in tax-advantaged retirement accounts, and ups the age at which they need to begin taking mandatory distributions from 72 to 75 — two things that will generally benefit only the wealthiest seniors. ...
It would be more helpful to buttress the Social Security Trust Fund and increase benefits, but there’s little action on that front. ...
Jul 29, 2022
The Senate Appropriations Committee has released its draft FY 2023 appropriations bill covering Social Security's administrative budget. The Committee amount is $14.2 billion, an increase of $902 million over FY 2022. This is $800 million less than the President's request and $200 million less than called for by the House bill. It's not enough to cover the costs of inflation.
I don't know why but the Social Security Administration is a disfavored agency, not just by Republicans, but also by Congressional Democrats. Could it be that Congress is convinced that Social Security's only problem is making its online services a bit better and to convince the public to use them rather than to call or visit the agency? If so, that's a serious misunderstanding of the Social Security Administration. About all you'll ever be able to do online is to file claims and appeals. Helping people do that is a part of what Social Security does but the far more time consuming part is actually adjudicating those claims and appeals. Computers aren't going to do that work for the agency.
Here are a few excerpts from the draft report on the bill (begins at page 308):
- ...[T]he Committee encourages SSA to take any steps possible to limit the burden of overpayments on beneficiaries that were of little or no fault of the beneficiary, particularly those discovered years later.
- The Committee strongly encourages SSA to expand outreach to potential beneficiaries, prioritizing underserved communities and individuals most likely to need support. This could include grants to community-based organizations familiar with SSA programs for the purpose of assisting individuals with disabilities apply for benefits, including supporting them throughout the process.
- ... [T]he Committee directs SSA to report to the Committees on Appropriations within 60 days of enactment of this act detailing the agency’s plans for expansion of Express Services, including the expected timeline of such expansion, mechanisms for providing such services, and planned national availability and capacity.
Jul 28, 2022
It’s been almost 45 years since Kathy Stolz-Silvis was in foster care in Pennsylvania. Stolz-Silvis was nine when her father died, making her and her siblings eligible for Social Security survivor benefits. But she didn’t become aware of those benefits until decades later — after reading an investigation published by The Marshall Project and NPR.
The report, published last year, found that foster care agencies in at least 49 states and Washington, D.C., have been applying for Social Security on behalf of foster youth in their care who are eligible for death, disability or veterans’ benefits. The agencies often keep the money, often without notifying the children, their family members or lawyers. ...
“Out of curiosity, I called them to find out what happened to my benefits when I was in foster care,” Stolz-Silvis said. “The person on the other end of the line told me they were not allowed to give me that information.”
In recent months, The Marshall Project and NPR have heard from dozens of former foster youth who described similar failed efforts to learn whether a state or local agency had applied to become their “representative payee,” allowing the agency to receive their federal benefits, a process permitted by federal regulations. ...
In an email, Darren Lutz, a spokesperson for the Social Security Administration, said that for those inquiring about past benefits: “We maintain records on the benefits we have paid and can answer their questions.” ...
Jayden Kiley was 17 and in foster care when her mother died, and she became eligible for death benefits from Social Security. But for eight months, between October 2019 and July 2020, she said, nobody told her about the benefits — or that her mother had even died. She found that out from a sibling.
“I didn’t know any of this,” Kiley said.
For two years, Kiley tried to get information from Social Security about her benefits, but she said that a representative told her that every time she called she was put at the bottom of a waitlist, so she stopped calling for a while. Eventually she found out the amount due to her is about $8,500, but said she hasn’t received any of it. ...
In case you're wondering, those who were in foster care are definitely entitled to information on what happened to any Social Security benefits they were entitled to as a minor but they aren't entitled to get the money back if it was paid to a foster care agency unless there was some unusual situation such as a child coming out of foster care but the foster care agency mistakenly continuing to receive payments from Social Security.
Jul 27, 2022
KNOE in Monroe, LA has a report on the lines outside their local Social Security field office. Note that the TV station displays the then current temperature in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
Jul 26, 2022
From an announcement to appear in tomorrow's Federal Register for the Interventional Cooperative Agreement Program (ICAP):
We are announcing a newly opened funding opportunity, the fiscal year (FY) 2022 application period of the Interventional Cooperative Agreement Program (ICAP). The purpose of this program is to allow us to enter into cooperative agreements to collaborate with States, foundations, and other non-Federal groups and organizations who have the interest and ability to identify, operate, and partially fund interventional research. ...
We hope to benefit from and collaborate with local, external knowledge about potential interventions relevant to individuals who receive Social Secuity Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. ICAP priority research topics are as follows:
- Eliminating the structural barriers in the labor market, including for racial, ethnic, or other underserved communities, including people with disabilities, in order to decrease the likelihood of people needing to receive or apply for SSDI or SSI benefits;
- Promoting self-sufficiency by helping people, including youth, enter, stay in, or return to the labor force;
- Coordinating planning between private and public human services agencies to improve the administration and effectiveness of the SSDI, SSI, and related programs;
- Assisting claimants in underserved communities to apply for or appeal determinations or decisions on claims for SSDI and SSI benefits; and
- Conducting outreach to people with disabilities who are potentially eligible to receive SSI. ...
Jul 25, 2022
It's that time of year when publications start trying to estimate the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits. Forbes is giving itself plenty of wiggle room by estimating it at 8.6% to 10.5%. Even the low figure is high. The upper figure is alarming.
Obviously, the COLA is crucial for recipients of Social Security benefits but inflation that high has serious implications for Social Security's administrative budget, Social Security employees who won't receive a COLA anywhere near this great and Social Security attorneys who are subject to a fee cap that isn't indexed for inflation.
Jul 24, 2022
Senator Ron Wyden, the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Robert Casey, the Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and Senator Sherrod Brown have written a joint letter to the Acting Commissioner of Social Security asking that the Social Security Administration incorporate children into its outreach program to those potentially eligible for SSI benefits, As already required by 42 U.S.C. §1383d(a).
Jul 23, 2022
From Government Executive:
Officials from the Biden administration on Thursday defended federal agencies’ approach to workplace flexibilities like telework and remote work from skeptical Republicans, who have grown more stridently against the concept of hybrid work environments in recent months.
In testimony before the House Oversight Committee’s subcommittee on government operations, Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja said flexibilities like telework and remote work, where possible, are central to the administration’s effort to revitalize the federal workforce and improve agency efficiency.
“One lesson we have learned throughout the pandemic is that workplace flexibilities, such as telework and hybrid work schedules, can promote resilience of federal government operations in the face of disruptions, enhance productivity, and improve employee morale,” she said. “During this time, we have seen the private-sector labor market—and what workers expect from their jobs—change quickly. Private-sector employers have had to quickly learn how to respond to employee needs. Federal employers must do the same to attract and retain talent in this tight labor market.”
But Republicans on the committee criticized the idea of providing additional “perks” to “bureaucrats,” and blamed teleworking workers for service backlogs at agencies like the IRS, OPM and the Social Security Administration. ...
Jul 22, 2022
It's been almost 45 years since Kathy Stolz-Silvis was in foster care in Pennsylvania. Stolz-Silvis was nine when her father died, making her and her siblings eligible for Social Security survivor benefits. But she didn't become aware of those benefits until decades later — after reading an investigation published by The Marshall Project and NPR. ...
"Out of curiosity, I called them to find out what happened to my benefits when I was in foster care," Stolz-Silvis said. "The person on the other end of the line told me they were not allowed to give me that information." ...
In recent months, The Marshall Project and NPR have heard from dozens of former foster youth who described similar failed efforts to learn whether a state or local agency had applied to become their "representative payee," allowing the agency to receive their federal benefits, a process permitted by federal regulations. ...
In an email, Darren Lutz, a spokesperson for the Social Security Administration, said that for those inquiring about past benefits: "We maintain records on the benefits we have paid and can answer their questions." The agency has "provided guidance and training to our employees on our rules and requirements for selecting representative payees, notifying the proper parties, and monitoring the performance of foster care agencies that serve as the representative payee for a child in foster care."
For current foster youth, Administration for Children and Families spokesperson Pat Fisher confirmed that both the agency and the Social Security Administration are developing joint guidance to state agencies about how to handle these cases, though there is no timeline for releasing it. ...
Jul 21, 2022
... Dolores Roake's husband passed away on Jan. 1, 2002 [2022?]. It's been nearly five months, and she still does not have her widow's social security fund in her pocket. ...
Roakes reached out on Jan. 10 to let social security know about the changes. Roakes had a phone call appointment on February 14, where they told her to file her paperwork at the local office.
She filed her paperwork at the local office on March 1.
"I kept waiting and waiting to hear something. Never did. Never got anything in the mail."
That's when she started to call the social security office. On April 26, she finally got ahold of someone.
"She said she would push it through and she would process it that day, and I'd get something in five days. Well, I never heard anything. I would go online to try to check this progress, but no results," Roakes said.
That's when she reached out to ABC13 for help.
ABC13 emailed the Social Security Administration, asking about Roakes' benefits.
Only half an hour after ABC13 reached out, Roakes got some answers.
"After you sent the email, I got a phone call. She finally found where everything was processed on Friday. She just apologized, and that was about it," Roakes said. ...
Jul 20, 2022
The Social Security Administration (SSA) just released beneficiary death information for 2021. Together with the data for 2020, it is clear the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the beneficiary population — and it is well past time for the federal government to take additional steps to protect individuals served by SSA’s programs.
SSA recorded nearly 5.6 million beneficiary deaths in the 2020-2021 period, an increase of about 840,000 over the number recorded for the 2018–2019 period. This represents about a 17.7 percent increase in deaths from one two-year period to the next. ...
Based on SSA data on deaths and number of beneficiaries, the average annual death rate in the two years before COVID-19 was 37.7 deaths per 1,000 beneficiaries. The corresponding rate for the 2020-2021 period was 43.2 deaths per 1,000 beneficiaries, representing a 14.4 percent increase in the death rate. ...
Jul 19, 2022
From SSA Expedited Most Critical Cases at Hearings Level but Lacks Consistent Policy Implementation, a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO):
The Social Security Administration (SSA) flags a disability appeals case as critical after determining that the claimant’s health or financial condition, such as having a terminal illness or dire financial need, meets criteria in SSA’s policy manual. Cases can be flagged as critical before reaching a hearing office or during nearly any stage of the hearing process. SSA policy directs staff to expedite the case once it is flagged as critical. However, staff GAO interviewed from three of the five selected offices said that claimants must provide documentation of their dire financial need, even though SSA policy does not require it.
Hearing offices consistently processed critical cases faster than non-critical cases between fiscal years 2010 and 2020, but wait times varied depending on when the case was first flagged. Cases that arrived at a hearing office with a flag took a median 201 days to reach a hearing decision; those first flagged while they were at a hearing office took a median 351 days. This difference exists because hearing offices quickly begin work on flagged cases. In contrast, non-critical cases took a median 469 days (see figure). GAO found that, across the stages of the hearings process, critical cases flagged after reaching a hearing office spent the largest portion of the wait time in the stage before being assigned to a case worker. Once flagged during this waiting period, hearing office staff assigned most cases to a case worker within a week. ...
I wish they'd also look at expediting below the request for hearing level. Where appropriate, I help clients file critical case requests regardless of level. There's supposed to be expediting at the initial and reconsideration levels but I see little sign that it's happening. Backlogs at the initial and reconsideration levels are far worse than at the hearing level at least where I'm practicing.
Jul 18, 2022
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has once again extended the declaration of public health emergency due to Covid-19. The earliest this could be ended is October 13, 2022.
So, how is this Social Security News? The Musculoskeletal Listings, an important part of disability determination at Social Security, contain a provision (1.00.C.7.a.) making it slightly less difficult to be determined disabled during the declared public health emergency. The Listings are still harsh. This just makes them slightly less harsh.
In my opinion, we should never go back to the pre-Covid standard.
Jul 16, 2022
From Work Overpayments Among New Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries, a just released study by Denise Hoffman, Monica Farid, Serge Lukashanets, Michael T. Anderson, and John T. Jones:
This paper studies the experiences of the 2008 cohort of first-time Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries who were at risk of overpayment because they engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA) after completing the trial work period and grace period (work incentives allowing beneficiaries to test work). ...
The paper found the following:
- Among a sample of 31,520 2008 first-time Social Security Disability Insurance awardees at risk of a work-related overpayment, 82 percent (25,846) were overpaid in the first 10 years after award.
- Among those overpaid within 10 years of award, half of all overpayments began in the first four years after award.
- Nearly all overpayments (89 percent) began in the first month of SGA after exhausting trial work period and grace period months. ...
Jul 15, 2022
While it is not uncommon for someone upset about a law to be told “You should call Congress,” the reality is that Congress is supposed to do more than just legislate. Early in American history, some of the most important work Congress performed was constituent service. For example, members of Congress often needed to help Revolutionary War veterans secure pensions promised by the government.
It’s the same today.
Constituent service is as important as ever in part because federal agencies are struggling to serve the public effectively. This can be seen in recent press reports that elderly and disabled people have had to wait in long lines in the hot sun of Florida, New Mexico, and Texas just to get service from understaffed local Social Security offices. ...
Why is this happening? Because appropriators in the current Congress cut nearly $1 billion from President Biden’s customer service budget for the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Congress fully expects that the complaining public will gripe to SSA, not to Congress. ...
Given that Congress is the root cause of the problem, it’s reasonable to think it should be part of the solution.
Providing greater levels of constituent service is one way Congress can help. ...
Congress needs to appreciate the consequences of its poor decisions on funding — and needs to try to perform better in the future.
Today, it is easy for Congress to systematically underfund federal agencies and then hide behind those agencies (or even blame them) when things get ugly. Putting Congress on the front lines of service will — in a very real fashion — force elected leaders and congressional staff to deal with the mistakes they make. ...
It's an old dodge. Underfund the agency and then blame poor service on agency leadership. Social Security management has the inevitable problems one would expect at a large agency but that's not why people have to line up before dawn outside Social Security field offices. That's 100% the fault of elected officials and particularly Republican elected officials who like to "cut it until it bleeds and then complain about the blood stains", to quote an old line.
Jul 14, 2022
From the E-Verify website:
Starting July 15, 2022, employees whose E-Verify cases are referred to SSA on or after July 15, 2022, will have the normal 8 federal working days to contact their local SSA office to begin resolving the mismatch. At the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic in March 2020, E-Verify extended the timeframe for an employee to take action to resolve a Social Security (SSA) Tentative Nonconfirmation (mismatch). E-Verify cases referred on or after July 15, 2022, E-Verify will no longer provide extended timeframes for employees to visit SSA to resolve these mismatches. E-Verify cases referred between March 2, 2020 to July 14, 2022, with a SSA mismatch will still have an extended timeframe to be resolved ...
Jul 13, 2022
The Partnership for Public Service has issued its annual survey results on "The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government." The Social Security Administration was ranked 15 out of 17 large agencies.
Social Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) ranked dead last out of 432 agency sub-components. Among other agency subcomponents, the Deputy Commissioner for Budget, Finance, Quality, Management ranked 122, Office of General Counsel ranked 220, Deputy Commissioner for Retirement & Disability Policy ranked 281, Deputy Commissioner for Operations (DCO) ranked 391, and Deputy Commissioner for Hearings Operations ranked 415.
Agency sub-components are ranked in many dimensions. Notably, DCO is ranked 429 out of 432 for work-life balance and OIG is ranked dead last for effective senior leaders. OIG ranked at or near the bottom in many dimensions.
Jul 12, 2022
From the Washington Post:
From the House Committee Report on the FY 2023 appropriations bill covering the Social Security Administration (the Social Security part begins on page 315):
... Within the total recommended increase, the Committee expects SSA to direct not less than $630,000,000 for field offices, teleservice centers, and program service centers, and $190,000,000 to replace losses and build capacity at the State Disability Determination Services (DDS) agencies that make disability determinations for SSA. ...
The Committee continues to consider the Final Rule ‘‘Hearings Held by Administrative Appeals Judges of the Appeals Council’’ (85 Fed. Reg. 73138, December 16, 2020) to be an unjustified erosion of due process for individuals who are appealing a denial of Social Security or SSI benefits. ...
The Committee directs SSA to submit a report to the Committee within 180 days of enactment of this Act exploring the feasibility of using employee incentives, including an agency student loan repayment program, to improve recruitment and retention for qualified candidates across the agency. ...
The Committee understands that the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) relies on legal assistants to conduct a broad range of work supporting hearings and reviewing work of its administrative law judges, and urges SSA to examine the position descriptions of legal assistants, pay and actual work conducted, to ensure that job classifications and compensation are commensurate with current duties. ...
Note that this is only the House version. The Senate version will be different. The Reports aren't mandatory in any case. Only the enacted provisions are mandatory. However, agencies ignore the Committee reports at their peril.
Jul 11, 2022
In recent years many have decried Social Security's reliance on old mainframe computers running programs written in the very old COBOL language. Many have thought this to be a major problem holding back progress at Social Security. As this New York Times article demonstrates, maybe using COBOL isn't bad at all. At the least, COBOL remains in common use:
Caitlin Mooney is 24 years old and infatuated with technology that dates to the age of Sputnik.
Mooney, a recent New Jersey Institute of Technology graduate in computer science, is a fan of technologies that were hot a half-century ago, including computer mainframes and software called COBOL that powers them. That stuff won’t win any cool points in Silicon Valley, but it is essential technology at big banks, insurance companies, government agencies and other large institutions.
During Mooney’s job hunt, potential employers saw her expertise and wanted to talk about more senior positions than she was seeking. “They would get really excited,” Mooney told me. She’s now trying to decide between multiple job offers.
The resilience of decades-old computing technologies and the people who specialize in them shows that new technologies are often built on lots of old tech.
When you deposit money using your bank’s iPhone app, behind the scenes it probably involves computers that are the progeny of those used in the Apollo moon missions. (Also, half-century-old computer code is baked into the iPhone software.)
It’s often seen as a problem or a punchline that so much musty technology is still around. But it’s not necessarily an issue.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” joked Ellora Praharaj, director of reliability engineering at Stack Overflow, an online forum popular with tech workers. “Students out of school these days don’t necessarily want to work in uncool older languages. But the reality of the world is this is what powers many of our existing systems.”
Praharaj said she learned COBOL in college in the mid-2000s and “hated it.” But until about five years ago, she was regularly using a 1950s computer programming technology called Fortran in a former job in the financial services industry. The old stuff is everywhere.
Latin is dead, but old computer programming languages like COBOL live on. ...
Jul 10, 2022
From a press release:
Eric Lemoyne Willis, 46, of West Sacramento, was sentenced today to four years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government property, and aggravated identity theft, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, Willis and co-defendants, Darron Dimitri Ross, 36, of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Joshua Bilal George, 39, of San Diego, conspired to steal public money from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Willis worked as an SSA Operations Supervisor in Sacramento and Lodi from 2015 until his departure in January 2018. During this timeframe, Willis used his authority as an SSA employee to access the confidential Social Security records of numerous Social Security beneficiaries. These records contained personally identifiable information (PII) including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, account numbers, family information, and benefit payment amounts. Willis would seek out PII for beneficiaries who used direct deposit for payment of large benefits. Willis then gave this PII to Ross who resided in North Carolina.Ross and George’s roles in these crimes included calling numerous SSA field offices across the country and using the stolen PII to impersonate the beneficiaries. Ross also opened at least 44 online bank accounts under fraudulent identities to receive diverted SSA benefit payments. If Ross succeeded in convincing an SSA representative that he was the beneficiary, he would request that the beneficiary’s direct deposit account be changed to one of the conspirators’ fraudulent accounts. ...
Jul 9, 2022
From WFTS in Tampa Bay:
... Brett Chamberlin's letters from the Social Security Administration have piled up.
“They send me letters saying, you didn’t come for your interview. I didn’t have an interview. You didn’t submit the information we requested. You didn’t request any information,” Chamberlin said.
He has been going back and forth with the SSA office since 2017, when he was first diagnosed with Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) and Giant Cell Arteritis. ...
Chamberlin depends on high flow oxygen 100% of the time and uses a wheelchair to get around. He tells ABC Action News he was declared disabled by his doctor but has been denied Social Security disability. ...
“We’re not able to survive. I have sold everything that I owned of any value with the exception of my wedding ring,” Chamberlin said. ...
Jul 8, 2022
A report from Social Security on operations at its Office of Hearings Operations (OHO).
|Click on image to view full size|
Jul 7, 2022
Long lines were reported at the Orlando Social Security Office Wednesday.
One woman told WESH 2 she arrived at 6 a.m. ahead of the office opening at 9 a.m. As of 11:30 a.m., she was still waiting and it was her second day in line. She said she and her dad came yesterday morning at 7a.m. and was home because the lines were too long.Advertisement
Another woman said she came because the office misspelled her daughter’s name and they told her to come in person. ...
There's a similar piece on another local station in Orlando.
Jul 6, 2022
|Photo taken at 5:51 AM|
From Spectrum News:
The long lines outside Orlando's Social Security office have continued early Wednesday morning.
Dozens of Central Florida residents in search of Social Security services waited hours outside the Orlando Social Security office under the hot Florida sun Tuesday afternoon.
Some arrived as early as 2:00 a.m. Wednesday to try to guarantee an appointment this morning. The office opens at 9 a.m. ...
In a statement, a Social Security Administration spokesperson advised residents to book appointments over the phone or online to avoid waiting in lines.
However, people who waited in line told Spectrum News 13 that they tried, but were not able to book an appointment using those services.
Jul 3, 2022
Jul 2, 2022
From Federal News Network:
The Baltimore Ravens football team may be better known for its winning ways on the field and its rabid fans in the stands.
But the Social Security Administration turned to the NFL team because of its prowess in using data to drive customer experience decisions. It also didn’t hurt that SSA headquarters is located in Baltimore County, Maryland, and many of the staff are big fans of the team.
Patrick Newbold, the assistant deputy commissioner and deputy chief information officer at SSA, said the Ravens are known for providing a great customer experience for their fans so it just made sense that the agency would reach out.
“One of the questions we asked the Baltimore Ravens was how business intelligence analytics changed their service delivery model?” Newbold said on Ask the CIO. “The Ravens shared an excellent use case with us on how data was able to challenge one of their assumptions on fan demographics. Early on, when they started to aggregate that data, that data disproved assumptions they had about their season ticket holders. Their fans were a lot younger than the marketing assumed. ...
The Ravens brought their chief data officer or equivalent position to the table to meet with executives from SSA’s CIO, CDO and mission offices. ...
“We want to use data to monitor and improve the way we do business and services, and deliver our services to our citizens,” Newbold said. “We also shared several challenges. One was the importance of data collection. The Baltimore Ravens leverage NFL-wide data as well as their Baltimore Ravens-specific data. They use that data to inform decisions. We, at SSA, want to create a primary source of SSA-wide data that is beyond assumptions and that supports that ad hoc, cross-cutting capability to do some data analytics. While we are completely different organizations, we have the same goals and mission desire when it comes to how we can use data to really inform the way we want to move forward.” ...
“We also met with a couple of thought leaders since June, the former General Motors CIO Ralph Szygenda and the former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti,” he said. “We take these conversations and we’ve highlighted about three important lessons learned from these conversations, and we are baking those into our strategy. They are around governance, data and culture.” ...
Learning from the experiences of others is a good idea but this still sounds weird.
Jul 1, 2022
The full House Appropriations Committee has approved its version of the appropriations bill covering the Social Security Administration. There were no amendments affecting Social Security. The report that accompanies such bills has been released. These reports typically contain precatory language that agencies generally try to follow even if they are not legally required to do so. Here's some excerpts that affect Social Security (beginning at page 310):
- ... Within the total recommended increase, the Committee expects SSA to direct not less than $630,000,000 for field offices, teleservice centers, and program service centers, and $190,000,000 to replace losses and build capacity at the State Disability Determination Services (DDS) agencies that make disability determinations for SSA.
- In addition, within the recommended funding level, the Committee provides $89,500,000 for SSA to mail paper statements to all contributors aged 25 and older not yet receiving benefits ...
- Hearings.—The Committee continues to consider the Final Rule ‘‘Hearings Held by Administrative Appeals Judges of the Appeals Council’’ (85 Fed. Reg. 73138, December 16, 2020) to be an unjustified erosion of due process for individuals who are appealing a denial of Social Security or SSI benefits. As part of a beneficiary’s right to an impartial appeal process, an on the record hearing, conducted by an impartial judge with decisional independence, must be conducted in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act to ensure due process, without agency interference, or political bias. Replacing this appeals step and the role of independent administrative law judges (ALJs) with SSA employees jeopardizes the independence of the process. In light of the harm that would be caused by this policy change, the Committee strongly urges SSA not to exercise this authority. ...
- The Committee requests SSA submit to the Committee within 90 days of enactment of this Act a plan for reducing the initial and reconsideration claims backlogs, and continue to submit to the Committee quarterly reports on disability hearings backlogs until SSA has eliminated the hearings backlog and achieved its monthly average processing time goal. The Committee urges the Commissioner to prioritize the hiring of additional staff at the DDS agencies to determine initial claims and reconsideration appeals, as well as ALJs and requisite staff to adjudicate backlogged hearings claims. ...
- The Committee remains concerned about the time it takes SSA to effectuate favorable SSI and/or SSDI disability determinations and requests a briefing on the issue withing 30 days of receiving the report on Disability Determinations as requested in House Report 117–96. ...
- The Committee directs SSA to submit a report to the Committee within 180 days of enactment of this Act exploring the feasibility of using employee incentives, including an agency student loan repayment program, to improve recruitment and retention for qualified candidates across the agency. ...
- The Committee recognizes the essential role that field offices play in the public’s ability to access SSA benefits and services and strongly encourages the Commissioner to take every action possible to maintain operations at existing field offices. ...
- The Committee understands that the Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) relies on legal assistants to conduct a broad range of work supporting hearings and reviewing work of its administrative law judges, and urges SSA to examine the position descriptions of legal assistants, pay and actual work conducted, to ensure that job classifications and compensation are commensurate with current duties. ...
- The Committee believes that quality representation in matters with SSA assists claimants and beneficiaries, and can also help SSA work more accurately and efficiently. The Committee appreciates that the Commissioner is raising the cap on fees payable via fee agreement, and encourages the Commissioner to index the cap to account for inflation in future years. ...
- The Committee reiterates its support for well-managed telework programs in the Federal workplace and understands that SSA is in the process of evaluating how telework affects service delivery during the reentry evaluation period of March 30 through September 30, 2022. Within 90 days of enactment of this Act, the Committee requests a briefing on how the results of that evaluation will be used to measure and monitor the impact of telework on customer satisfaction, service availability including continuity of operations, workloads management, employee experience, stewardship, and environmental considerations. ...
Note that we are a long, long way from having a final bill. The Senate has to act. The filibuster in the Senate gives the minority a veto over appropriations bills. The House of Representatives may be in Republican hands by the time there is final action.